Thursday, February 23, 2017


Seven days and counting. We enter that time of the year when everyone is asking "When are you leaving?" It's a time when last minute dinner gatherings are put on the calendar and we start to think about what we are going to take home and what we are going to leave down here.

I am ready for a bit of a change. I do not look forward to the weather up north, I am just ready for a bit of routine change. I want my bed. I want my chair. I need to scratch Kobi behind the ear and lay on the floor with him.

We stay in a near perfect area for weather down here in Melaque. Each day is very predictably the same, it is hard to explain. Last weekend we had two days of cooler weather, but then it is back to near perfect. If we could have these winter weather patterns combined with our outdoor beauty, and then throw our classic summer/fall living conditions into the mix, it would be nirvana!

Oh well, we will go home and enjoy the Pacific Northwest and then plan for next year.
We have a couple exciting spring adventures planned. The Cam-Am Oregon Rendezvous and then a few other events. We will have a great time and I know I have a lot of things to get done this summer.

I'll Probably post once when I return home prior to the Rendezvous. I'll get my new phone, and pull out the backup digital camera I have charging at the house We will reunite with Kobi and all will be well with the world.  Until then¡Adiós!

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Travels on Mangata

I received an email just before we went on the Copper Canyon trip from John Karpenko who was staying on his sailboat in La Cruz De Huanacaxtle (La Cruz), up near Puerto Vallarta. He asked me to come up and help him sail the boat down along the coast to Barra de Navidad.  I immediately replied and said that if he could start the trip after we returned from our trip then I would be in and would make my way up to La Cruz and join his crew. He replied and said, of course, that would work and so I bought a bus ticket to PV, stuffed it into my wallet and headed for the Copper Canyon with Linda.

The day we returned from our one trip, I laundered my dirty clothes and packed my stuff for my sailing adventure.

On the 3rd of February, I kissed Linda goodbye and loaded on the bus heading north. Joining me were Daren and Marcy Upchurch. They were continuing their adventure in Mexico and planned to stay in Puerto Vallarta for a spell. Later they would continue on north where they planned to connect with a ferry and cross over to the Baja peninsula.
The bus ride was uneventful and the Upchurches and I parted ways in PV. They got off in old town PV and I rode on to the end of the line at the bus terminal by the airport.

As I got off the bus, I overheard a fellow say that he was heading to La Cruz. I stopped him and said that I was going that way and asked if he wanted to split a taxi. With a pack and small duffle, I did not want to "chicken bus" my way up to my final destination.  Richard, I think that was his name, was excited to be able to split the taxi costs and so we joined forces and flagged down our ride.

The ride to La Cruz was slow due to traffic, but Richard and I chatted, passing the time.
We reached our destination. Neither one of us knew where we were going so we had the driver stop a block from the marina and let us out. We settled up with him, shook hands, and each went different directions.

We saw many whales, but this was my best photo.
I walked to the Marina Riviera Nayarit and found the main office where I asked if they could contact Mangata, John’s boat, and let them know I had arrived.  The lady said sure and handed me the microphone. All I could think of saying was “Mangata, Idaho” so I punched the button and spoke. John replied immediately and said that they would be there to pick me up in 20 minutes.

I sat outside looking at the beautiful boats and smiling. I was thinking I was going to like this adventure!

John and his brother Mike arrived right on time. With introductions over, we headed into La Crux for a quick lunch and a drink. We talked about the trip and got ready to set sail on Saturday.

At 4:00 PM the next day, after a brief introduction to Mangata, we pulled up the anchor and headed out across Bahía de Banderas, starting our overnight crossing around Cabo Corrientes and down to Punta Pérula and our first anchorage at Pérula. (Google Map of Trip)

Sailing at night is very interesting and we took shifts at the wheel. We had to go about 96 miles to make our first moorage.  Just after sunset, the wind died and we had to drop sails and motor.  As the night went on and the ocean converged on Cabo Corrientes, the swell got bigger and a trailing wind picked up. It was a bit of a rough run, but I guess this area has been known to provide a much harsher passage.

We were having so much fun! The Bahía de Banderas had provided us with dolphins and it seemed like hundreds of whales. Everywhere we looked whales were breaching, finning or spouting. It was amazing. Once the sun set, the full moon lit up the ocean around us as we drove up and surfed down swell after swell. What a night!

Just as the sun was beginning to lighten up the eastern sky, we adjusted our heading for our approach to our first anchorage in Pérula. We looked ahead to see the three-masted sailing ship Eos gliding out of the bay and into the sunrise.

Mangata slid into the protection of the bay and we took the place of the huge schooner. Once on the hook, we settled in and made the boat right. Then we rested.
With a few hours of rest under our belts we loaded the dingy and motored into shore to attempt our first beach landing as a team of three.  We picked our spot, John timed the waves and we thought we had a smooth spot, committed to the landing.  It did not go as well as we planned.  All of us came up wet, and our boat had filled with water.  We hung our heads and bailed the boat.  We talked about our mistakes and made some mental notes.  Lessons learned are lessons earned. Future beach landings were perfect from that point forward. We can look back and laugh.

On shore, we assessed the damage to ourselves and our cargo. Everyone was wet but unharmed. The worst thing was that my camera got wet. Wet cameras don’t work and from that point on I had to use my GoPro for capturing photos. Mike and John used their phones to capture the moments, so hopefully, I can gather them all together for this post.

The beach was crowded! It was Sunday and it was a Mexican holiday (Constitution Day). We walked up into town and ate our dinner at one of the small restaurants across from the jardin. We all had the Sunday dinner special, carne asada. Then we made our way out to the boat, climbed aboard and crashed. We all slept hard that night.

We organized Mangata the next morning, loaded the dingy and then motored over to two islands, Isla Cocinas and Isla Pajarera. We spent the afternoon checking out the hidden beaches. We fished as we motored around but caught nothing. Another great afternoon in the sun.

Our evening took us back into town where we ate at El Pirata on the beach. This turned out to be my favorite meal - nine huge shrimp wrapped in bacon. It was a great meal and we ended it by taking cold water showers under their beach showers. We considered this a perfect ending to a busy day!

Life on the sailboat is laid back. You anchor up and explore, eat and search for provisions. On our final day in Pérula we gathered some food items, five gallons of water and then ate pizza at a great local spot that was very popular called the Scuba Jazz Café.

We hauled anchor and made the run south past Bahia Careyes to our next anchorage at Tenacatita. Once on the hook, we started to explore that very popular bay.  The first trip adventure was a dingy run from Boca el Garrioon up Estera Vende to Tenacatita Lake where we tied up to a small dock. The estuary was lined with mangrove trees and the entire time we motored we talked and laughed about crocodiles, boas, and black mambas. Once again it looked like the largest in the party would probably serve as bait if we were attacked, so my fate was set. Hopefully, we wouldn’t have to play the survival game.

After tying up at the dock, we walked a couple hundred yards, past some armed guards, to the beach where we talked to some folks inquiring about a place to eat.   They said that if we asked the lady in pink over on the playa, she would use her radio and call in any food and drink order we wanted.  We ordered pop, beer and the Royal Roll for each of us and found a table to wait. Within 20 minutes our order arrived and we had a wonderful meal. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

We dinghied back down through the mangroves. The sun was getting low and the colors of the plant life on the river’s edge were unbelievable. We beat the bugs out of the marsh and made our way out of the mouth of the river. Mike helped by walking the boat past the sand bar, but he had to watch his step because there were sting rays all over the sandy bottom.  We returned to Mangata and high-fived another great adventure under our belts.

The next couple days we hung around the anchorage at Tenacatita. One day was spent taking a panga into La Manzanilla. I got to spend the day with my lovely wife Linda and our friends from Melaque.  They all loaded up in the van and drove over to see us.  Linda and I have only been apart for this amount of time two other times in our marriage.

We spend most every minute of our lives together and this separation had been much harder than we had planned. I loved seeing her and being able to hug her.  It was very hard to say goodbye at the end of our day together.  The good thing was that our trip to Barra was about over and we would be together again soon.
Back at the boat, all the crews of the boats anchored in Tenacatita gathered food for a large dingy tie up. At 5:30 PM small boats came from all over the bay and met, bringing all who wanted to attend and a food item to share.  We circled up and introduced ourselves, each and every one. Some folks sang songs or played an instrument. It was a very nice finale to our stay in this beautiful bay.

The next morning we pulled anchor and headed into Barra de Navidad. As we passed Cuastecomate, we cruised into the bay for a quick look, but that was all of our sightseeing for this trip. We entered the waters of the anchorage at Barra and set the hook.  Our adventure was over.

I find it hard to explain how cool it was to be able to do this trip. The time on the water was amazing. The people we met were beyond friendly and the places we got to experience were wonderful.  I now have a small idea what the cruise life is like. I know why people love it and continue to seek solace in the adventures at sea.  Thank you, John, for allowing me to accompany you on this leg of your journey!

  Mike, you and I will always have a bond created by our adventures and I cannot express what that means to me.  Mangata is a seaworthy vessel and she will carry you far on your explorations.  Pat her on the shroud and tell her how much I appreciated her care. 

Even when the boat was a rocking, Mike was able to provide!
Mike was our cook for the entire trip.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Copper Canyon - The Complete Story

By 7:00 AM we loaded the huge ETN bus with our Mex-ECO Tour group and we were on the road. The bus had WIFI so we were able to catch up on emails and such. The ride to Guadalajara got us into our hotel about 1:00 PM.

Just outside of Manzanillo we hit our first slowdown. A container truck lost its load and so we ended up waiting on the highway for 20 minutes. Could have been much worse and we could have been sitting there a lot longer.

The bus was very nice and clean with a quiet ride. We passed near the two volcanos; one very active, one not. Our route bypassed Colima and climbed into the high flatlands near Guadalajara. This is a large farming region. Berries, sugar cane, agave and much more grow for as far as your eyes can see.

We arrived at the Hotel Morales at about 1:00 PM. While the rooms were being readied, we went to a restaurant named La Chata. We were able to walk right in and get a table. Later, we found out that this was a very popular place and that people usually wait in line for 20 minutes or more. We were very lucky, I guess.

I was starved. Linda agreed, so we ordered and shared our plates. It was fast and good. Didn’t seem like an exceptional meal. I like Buen Gusto better, but I guess I am Melaque-spoiled. 

Our room is nice and we have everything we need. Next up, was a walking tour of Guadalajara Centro!

We did the tour. Our guide was Ophelia, the same woman who did the tours when we went on the Monarch butterfly tour.  Ophelia lead us into the numerous squares, visited a Catholic Church, and saw many fancy fountains. One building, the Palace Building is never closed... except for today! We couldn't go in it.

I walked back early, and Linda went on to a jewelry store. That could have proven to be a huge mistake. As it turned out she was overwhelmed by the size of the place and came back empty-handed. I knocked on wood when she returned with all our money intact.

We had a 4:30 am departure from the hotel to Guadalajara airport for a 7:00 AM flight to Los Mochis. All went well, No slow ups and no mishaps though the airport itself was crazy. There didn't appear to be any rhyme nor reason to where the cars or people went. So glad we had Dan who speaks fluent Spanish and made our way through it as seamless as possible. We had a nice breakfast in a hotel in the heart of Los Mochis after we landed.

We bused our way to El Fuerte where we were to stay overnight at the Posada del Hidalgo, a beautiful hotel where it is said Zorro grew up.

I settled into the room and Linda went for a long walk through town and along the river. She said it was very nice because of the walkway, but the river itself was something you would not want to swim in. 

Linda and I had a great dinner in town and we took a bit of time to explore the area. When we returned to the hotel I made myself at home and Linda went down to the bar to see a performance by Zorro and his girlfriend. There were singing and interplay with the audience, but Linda learned nothing about the caped hero that evening event.

Early the next morning we all loaded onto the bus and met the Chepe train from El Fuerte to Bahuichivo and in the afternoon we rode a bus transfer from Bahuichivo to Cerocahui.

The train ride was a new experience for Linda and I. Linda had been on a train before when she was very little, but I had never ridden anything other than steam trains at amusement parks. Our ride was yet another grand adventure and I actually hardly sat down the entire time. Linda and I took turns hanging out of the spaces between the cars, watching the views go by, taking photo after photo.

Riding the rails was exactly as all the songs, poems and stories tell you. The train chugs along and sways back and forth. You could get up from your seat and go to the area between the cars and stand to watch Mexico go by.  I took photo after photo, as we moved along. Every turn provided a new vista.  We must have traveled through fifty tunnels, one dark tube after another. I was all smiles as we made our way up the mountains.

Some of the tunnels were hairpin curves. We would enter them, travel in the dark and then emerge into the bright light. You could look down and see the tunnel entrance that you had just entered below the one you just exited. It was very weird. 

We approached a small town and the train slowed to a stop. Tarahumara women scurried up to the doorways between cars, carrying armloads of baskets, hoping to sell them. I reach down and took one, it was woven very precisely with wonderful colors. I asked "quanto?" and the woman replied "veinte" and the deal was done. Twenty pesos is about $1 for a beautiful basket that probably took a half day to weave. Linda joined me and purchased a basket while I spent the rest of the stop taking pictures and absorbing this culture.

The train whistle sounded and the final deals were completed as the cars rolled slowly away. We moved further on up toward the rim of the canyons. 

We arrived at Cerocahui for a wonderful afternoon. The sun was out but there still was a nip in the air. Folks gathered outside our room and wrapped up in blankets to chat.

By this time we were acquainted with many of the people on the tour. Dick Ferguson, a former airline pilot, and I went for a walk. Dick said he needed the exercise, but I think it was more of an excuse to find beer for the afternoon social. He led us along the main street and finally found a little store that could sell us beer.

On the walk we visited the Mission of the town of Cerocahui, this mission is the one the wine is named after.  As Dick and I walked, Linda toured a boarding school for Tarahumara girls. She found out that the girls could attend the school as they choose. They could either stay the entire time or they could go home whenever they wished. Most chose to stay Monday through Friday, walking home on the weekend. We all met back at the hotel and had a wonderful dinner. Fires were lit in our rooms and we retired early after a long day of travel.

The following day we bussed up to the ‘Cerro del Gallego’ a viewpoint overlooking the Urique Canyon. The road was very narrow and windy, we only met one other vehicle which in our view was a good thing.

Our bus took us to the train depot for our ride from Bahuichivo to Barrancas. Once again on board, we watched the mountainous terrain go by as we chugged up to the top of the canyon rim.
Exiting the train we loaded onto a small bus and were transported to the Barrancas Mirador hotel. 

WOW! What a view! Our room, and every room opened to a balcony that dropped off directly into the bottom of the Copper Canyon. The view was beyond words! We spent the next half hour taking photos and marveling at the spectacular panorama before us.

We pride ourselves away from the view and met our group outside the hotel where we took a hike down along the canyon edge and visited Tarahumara caves and viewpoints of the Copper Canyon. The trail was well marked and so several of us walked briskly up to the viewpoints where we posed for photos and enjoyed the canyon.

That night we ate another wonderful dinner and retired to our room on the edge of the world.

The next morning we gathered outside the hotel and watched a performance by the Tarahumara. Three musicians played instruments as another fellow dressed in traditional Tarahumara cloth did three dances.  Two Tarahumara women joined the group and demonstrated a ring race that was traditionally done during gatherings and celebrations.  Poncho pulled Linda out of the crowd and had her compete aginst one of the other tourists.  I think Linda would have been an Olympic Ring Runner if she had lived with the Tarahumara people. I was very proud!

Another bus ride carried everyone along a rough road and into an adventure park where we walked to the famous ‘Piedra Volada’ (flying rock) and some spectacular views from the cable car station. After entering the park the bus took us to a modern viewing station where we could purchase a ride on the longest zip line in the world or check out the zip lining tour through the canyon.

It was highly suggested that we do the zip lining tour because you get much more for your money.  The longest zip line in the world is cool, but it is a three minute, 60 mile per hour drop straight down into the canyon.  Three minutes and it is over, whereas the zip line tour is a combination of seven zip lines and two swinging bridges that give you two hours of excitement.  We all chose the tour!

WOW! What a thrill! We all loved it. In our group of eight, only three had done a longer zip line. Linda and I had done the little one at North Idaho College, but that is nothing compared to these wild rides.  Our group was amazing, there were no hesitations, and no one showed any fear, period! Yes, we were all scared internally as we rocketed across the canyons, but you would never have known it by our actions.

If you ever get a chance to do this adventure, I highly recommend it!

After the seven lines were conquered, we met at the gondola platform for a group picture and then we rode the car back up to the flying rock view point and our awaiting bus.

Click here to see our Zip Line Photos.

We left the beautiful cliffside resort and our bus rumbled on to our final destination in Chihuahua, but first, we stopped at the viewpoint in Divisadero for last minute photos of the area where the three canyons come together.

After a couple hours of moving on down the winding road,  we entered the community of Cuauhtémoc in Chihuahua. This community has some very odd ties and our visit just pointed to just the very top layer of its history.

Cuauhtémoc is a Mennonite community. The Mennonites moved from Manitoba Canada around 1925. Their community has grown to be about 25,000 strong and we were able to visit their museum and eat lunch at a Mennonite farm.

I had a few questions so I sat down with our guide Poncho and he had an interesting take on the Mennonites. Poncho called them predators. He clearly stated that they came down to this area and took everything from the indigenous people and do not give anything in return.  They don’t mix in the community, they don’t share resources, and they won’t learn Spanish or respect Mexican customs.  It was obvious that Poncho did not respect these intruders.

We ate a very good lunch of bread, lunch meat, and cheese.  Cheese is one of the staple products of the Mennonite people and it was very good. Linda and I bought two large blocks, and have been enjoying them since our return.

Our bus took us on to Chihuahua and our final hotel. When we stopped it was the usual running of the bulls getting off the bus. We entered the hotel and got our key assignments and I realized that my jacket vest was still on the bus. As soon as I noticed this I ran out to catch the bus but it was too late. Our driver had left. I talked to Dan and Poncho and they said that we would have the same bus and driver the next day so to worry. It was then that I remembered that my phone was zipped tight in the pocket of the vest. Now I had to worry about the phone and what was on the phone that might get taken if some found the vest and kept it.

We walked around the streets of Chihuahua and visited their federal building. What a wonderful place. Poncho was from Chihuahua and you could tell how proud of his hometown he was. We returned to the hotel and all the Lady Flyers had Tequilla sunrises to celebrate their conquering the zip lines. At 7:00 PM we went to bed and crashed.

Morning came early and I checked with everyone about my vest and phone. It was not found. They said the bus was cleaned and it was not on board. The two items were stolen and now I had to deal with it. Bummer. 

 We again loaded onto the bus made our way to the airport, checked in and scurried through customs. Our flight was to leave at 8:00 AM but we started hearing rumors that the airport in Guatalaharra was fogged in and our plane would be a few hours late. The plane was four hours late and later we found that it had not been fogged in, but it was held up by a protest by the Ahedo concerning a failer by the government to pay the contracted rent for the land that the landing strip was built upon. A battle has been going on for quite a while and this protest did its job by disrupting air travel throughout Mexico. 

Finally, our plane arrived and they did one of the fastest turnarounds we have ever seen. We were on our way within a half and hour of the arrival of the plane. We flew into Guatalaharra, found our bus, and headed home arriving in Melaque around 9:00 PM. Another long day but our adventure was over and we could get home and relax. At least for a day.